someone needs a semiotic square
January 25, 2016 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How to Be an Anticapitalist Today, Erik Olin Wright at Jacobin: Tame, Smash, Escape, Erode.

Yes, it was linked before. No, you didn't read it.
posted by the man of twists and turns (24 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Basic Income as a Socialist Project (via) - "In what ways can a guaranteed basic income be considered part of a broad socialist challenge to capitalism?"

Have I built my own echo chamber? "Everywhere I look I see BI as the solution to nearly every problem. I can't tell if I've brainwashed myself or if everyone is blind and deaf to what seems like a magic bullet solution."

Basic Income at the World Economic Forum of Davos: "Nobel Prize winner in economics Christopher Pissarides expressing his strong support for 'universal minimum income' at the World Economic Forum in Davos."

The principled and pragmatic case for a Universal Basic Income: "There is an increasing global conversation about the idea of a 'Universal Basic Income' – a universal weekly payment to all eligible citizens. Finland, the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland are all looking at the idea. Meanwhile, it has been gathering interest amongst the US tech community who fear the social impacts of rapid technological change. But is it simply a Utopian vision or could it work it practice?"

Beating a Dead Robotic Horse: "I think the argument that humans are doomed because 'look what happened to horses' is stupid. People are not horses, they are apes. And apes are intelligent, creative, and social. The last one is very important, because it means we have a built-in demand for being around other people."

Meet The Press: "If and when people start realizing that the democratic socialist moniker represents the policies that have been successful in other democracies where people are more happy and satisfied, Bernie Sanders popularity will likely be meteoric. People want his policies."

Bile, Bullshit, and Bernie: "Citizens United and campaign finance law may be a massive sideshow to the real drama around money/speech that's occurring in conservative jurisprudential circles. Conservatives aim, it seems, to use the First Amendment to strike down entire economic regulatory regimes at the state and federal levels. On the grounds that so much of commercial life is a mode of speech, which should be protected like other modes of speech. In one instance they struck down a licensing law in DC that required tour guides to be registered with the city: violation of free speech. Thomas is at the center of this, and it's really unclear how far the conservatives on the Court will be willing to go. It raises some fascinating questions because the connection between money and speech—as I'm discovering in this excellent dissertation I've been reading—is an old and surprisingly complicated one in political theory, in which Aristotle and Locke play critical roles... Anyway, lots going on in this arena, which we should all be paying more attention to."

Bernie Sanders and the Liberal Imagination: "What is doable and what is morally correct are not always the same things."

On Algorithmic Communism (via) - "Inventing the Future insists that the left must learn from the strategies that ushered in the currently ascendant neoliberal hegemony. Inventing the Future doesn't spend a great deal of time luxuriating in pathos, preferring to learn from their enemies' successes rather than lament their excesses. Indeed, the most empirically interesting chunk of their book is its careful chronicle of the gradual, stepwise movement of neoliberalism from the 'fringe theory' of a small group of radicals to the dominant ideological consensus of contemporary capitalism."
posted by kliuless at 10:20 AM on January 25, 2016 [10 favorites]

Gosh, I wish the OP wasn't so long. Its not bad, but I think it suffers from how long it takes to get to its interesting parts. I almost gave up in the intro, not realizing it was setting up the different approaches to anti-capitalism.

Is there any indication that a UBI is a viable political options in the US within the next decade? I know a lot of wonk-y types who really love it (like the echo chamber link from kliuless). I just don't see it having even mainstream appeal within the current democratic party.
posted by lownote at 10:31 AM on January 25, 2016

The New Inequality Debate (via) - "More mainstream economists now find that the income mal-distribution reflects the political sway of elites, not economic imperatives."
Reich’s new work is the best statement since Karl Polanyi’s 1944 masterwork, The Great Transformation, of how markets are creatures of government and politics rather than a default state of nature. As Reich writes, “Government doesn’t ‘intrude’ on the ‘free market.’ It creates the market.” (Polanyi likewise wrote, in a famous oxymoron, “Laissez-faire was planned.”) Reich’s latest book is a compendium of all the ways that political power by economic elites rigs the rules of how markets work—in favor not of efficiency, but of the rich and the powerful—increasing both inefficiency and inequality. With increased market power comes increased concentration of wealth, and still more concentration of both political and economic power. More and more mainstream economists have been paying increasing attention to the connection between political power, market power, and the income distribution...

However, it’s possible that with a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate, and a Republican House with a reduced majority, some elements of the Brookings-AEI package might make it through Congress. At the same time, Republicans are still working to turn food stamps into a block grant, which would drastically cut benefits, and they have continued to try to kill the Affordable Care Act and slash other social outlays. If everything breaks right politically in 2016 (which is a big if), poverty could be modestly reduced, especially for the working poor, but the larger problems of income inequality will continue to worsen.

So which group represents the greater realism? Is it the pursuit of incremental policy changes aimed at modest reductions in poverty? Or is it work like Atkinson’s, acknowledging that a real improvement in the broader income distribution would require a sure grasp of power dynamics as well as policy changes well to the left of anything currently in mainstream debate?
posted by kliuless at 10:49 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there any indication that a UBI is a viable political options in the US within the next decade?

Well, the $15 minimum wage is certainly getting traction on the coasts. Politically, there's a lot of tie-ins between the Fight for 15 and calls for a minimum income. I think it's one of those things, like same-sex marriage, that will seem infeasible until it suddenly isn't.
posted by eviemath at 10:50 AM on January 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

Like most modern anti-capitalist writing, this article conflates people who are poor DESPITE capitalism with people who are poor BECAUSE OF capitalism. That subsistence farming is a terrible is no more true under global neoliberalism than it was for the last 10,000 years.

Sure, the rejoinder-de-jour is "inequality!" but that's just begging the question: it's very possible that the world we have is BETTER, even with the inequality.

But the most interesting aspect of this article is that it ultimately ends up at a sort of centrist, Clinton-esque neoliberalism: it is written in a high-socialist mode, saying all the populist revolutionary things along the way but ends with, "a few nips and tucks here and there can make a big difference and maybe bring about the revolution someday, wink-wink." Even the UBI that is animating the post and this thread is pretty much every mainstream economist's preferred solution!
posted by mikewebkist at 11:09 AM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

the $15 minimum wage is certainly getting traction

This Is What $15 an Hour Looks Like: "In July, Emeryville, California, passed the highest city-wide minimum wage in the country. Here's how workers' lives changed—and didn't."
In the United States the minimum wage, increasingly, is not a living wage. A few years ago, a few people interested in preserving the labor market came up with a radical idea: What if the minimum wage was a living wage? What if a person working full-time on a minimum wage made enough to live somewhere, purchase groceries and perhaps have enough leftover to save? To do this, they suggested doubling the minimum wage to $15 an hour. So far, Emeryville, CA is the first city to come close to this. In July, Emeryville, a Silicon Valley boomtown,* the minimum wage was raised to $14.44 an hour1 — the highest in the nation.

While it's still too early to issue a final verdict, there have been two initial impacts: minimum wage workers are less stressed about money, while those making just slightly above minimum wage feel stiffed. Like most rising tides, we will just need to see if it does indeed lift all boats.
*not technically in silicon valley! (although pixar is there ;)
posted by kliuless at 11:11 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

"a few nips and tucks here and there can make a big difference and maybe bring about the revolution someday, wink-wink."

Yanis Varoufakis:
For this view I have been accused, by well-meaning radical voices, of being “defeatist” and of trying to save an indefensible European socioeconomic system. This criticism, I confess, hurts. And it hurts because it contains more than a kernel of truth.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Without first fixing healthcare and housing in America a UBI makes zero sense. Because all that will happen is 90% of UBI will be eaten up by exponentially inflating healthcare and housing costs.
posted by innocentsabored at 11:17 AM on January 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

What happens when the rich decide that the REAL problem is that there are too many people?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:29 AM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

@ZenMasterThis: environmentalists have been banging that drum for years -- no need to wait for the rich.
posted by mikewebkist at 11:38 AM on January 25, 2016 [2 favorites]

I rolled my eyes a little at the idea of Taming and Eroding but then I remembered a real example of erosion I've seen in my neighborhood.

About a year ago my friends started talking about a "buy nothing" community on Facebook. The idea is that, if you have a thing, and you think other people would want the thing, you offer it up on the group page. If more than one person is interested, you randomly choose the person and presto, new owner. No money changes hands, no questions are asked, no motives are questioned. Importantly, if there is a need, users are encouraged to ask for things they need.

Shockingly, to me, in a neighborhood in Seattle of a few thousand with wild income disparity this group has grown so quickly that it's had to branch off multiple times. I have used the group (both giving and taking) and been amazed, really, at what people are wanting to give away and how many simple needs are being met when neighbors appeal to neighbors for help. Gifts of groceries, new baseball mitts, tickets to Star Wars that families could otherwise not have afforded. I didn't think of it this way before reading the article but this kind of exchange does erode capitalism. It helps the community be less dependent on the market to meet their needs and it connects neighbors to each other in weird ways.

Of course, it isn't perfect. People offer some useless stuff and it's not like it replaces my need to buy anything ever. But it's so refreshing to know that I don't have to turn the market first; I can appeal to my neighbors to see if they have the thing I'm looking for (usually, in my case, a niche kitchen tool) before going out to hand over cash. I don't think these communities would kill capitalism but I do think their proliferation would help people realize "hey, the market doesn't have all the answers and I don't have to participate."

It's not as dramatic or thrilling as smashing but it could slowly wash away.
posted by Tevin at 11:52 AM on January 25, 2016 [9 favorites]

@Zenmaster this: the reaction to the Zika virus, straight out of fiction.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:59 AM on January 25, 2016

Are you talking about Freecycle, Tevin? I've had a lot of success with it in the past.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:04 PM on January 25, 2016

No, Tofu, this is a group called Buy Nothing and it lives entirely on Facebook. I think the frictionless nature of interaction and signup (you just have to message mods with your cross street to prove you are local) is one reason it has been so successful.

But yeah, Freecycle is awesome too, it looks like the same idea. The difference with the Buy Nothing groups is that they are hyper-local to like, the small neighborhood scale rather than being across the whole city. Still, though, using the erosion example from the article, it can be helpful to have a species that covers the entire lake floor and another that thrives in crevices around the edges.
posted by Tevin at 12:11 PM on January 25, 2016

Without first fixing healthcare and housing in America a UBI makes zero sense.

Heywood Mogroot III has been banging on 'wealth taps' for awhile! i agree that a UBI is no panacea, esp against rentierism, crony capitalism and the like, but that just gets into what i think mikewebkist is getting at wrt 1) absolute vs. relative poverty and 2) distinguishing between falling international inequality (globally)* and rising intranational inequality (within countries).*

falling absolute poverty and international inequality is great and i don't think anyone disputes that, but while globalization has been good for china, for example, it hasn't been so great for manufacturing jobs in the US. there should have been a bargain (that could still be struck ;) where the gains from trade that accrued to capital are shared with labor -- win-win! -- but instead we have greater economic and political inequality (and instability), which to me is a major critique of relative inequality; where money = speech/voice/power/influence, even if absolute poverty levels are reduced (which again is great), if the 'poor' still remain politically marginalized: "we wouldn't have justice, freedom or a good society. They all require that the prisons be torn down..." and rentiers euthanized :P
posted by kliuless at 12:34 PM on January 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

That's a pretty long winded way to say, "yay universal basic income?... and in conclusion, anticapitalism is a land of contrasts."

Without first fixing healthcare and housing in America a UBI makes zero sense. Because all that will happen is 90% of UBI will be eaten up by exponentially inflating healthcare and housing costs.

In this way, the minimum wage is no different at all.

Well, the $15 minimum wage is certainly getting traction on the coasts. Politically, there's a lot of tie-ins between the Fight for 15 and calls for a minimum income. I think it's one of those things, like same-sex marriage, that will seem infeasible until it suddenly isn't.

The minimum wage is sort of like the anti-UBI. At worst, it squeezes marginal jobs out of existence, at best, it tries to keep pace with an ever moving goal post.

I think UBI and similar schemes are doomed because they rub against ideological lines in all the wrong ways. The left want to punish the Walmarts and other low wage employers, and UBI allows those Walmarts to continue paying low wages while "receiving welfare". A feature rather than a bug, IMO. Interestingly the right dislikes the idea for the same reason, though the motivation is different. Those on the liberals that like the idea seem to think it's a good addition to existing welfare programs, conservatives that like the idea seem to think it would be a good replacement for existing welfare programs. And with the Trump populist faction flexing its muscles, forget about any scheme that helps "undeserving" in any way, shape or form.

There is no agreement, even among political allies, how a UBI scheme would fit. There's no will to advocate for an idea that helps. Only if it helps the way my side thinks it should help.
posted by 2N2222 at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think 2N2222 is dramatically overrating the Trump populist faction's influence over U.S. public policy in the medium term.
posted by ColdOfTheIsleOfMan at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

"a few nips and tucks here and there can make a big difference and maybe bring about the revolution someday, wink-wink."

this is what you get when "socialism" is mainly a hobbyhorse for bourgeois academics and their aspirational grad students. if you go by Jacobinmag, the first qualification for becoming an anticapitalist is apparently a post graduate degree...

the UBI is like everything else promoted by these people. it's evidence of a world view stunted by a life lived in a series of veal pens: from suburbia to academia. they can't actually imagine a world fundamentally different from the one which has coddled them. in the brave socialist future everyone will still live on a wage, which the government will guarantee and magically manage to maintain the ability to buy the goods and services necessary to live. it's like "free college" they imagine a future where everyone was able to go to college but they would still be climbing the academic ladder rather than cleaning toilets while some currently lead damaged toddler in Flint, instead realizes their genius and works to actually advance human knowledge.
posted by at 5:07 PM on January 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

What a positive article! What a depressing comment thread. I'll just dream of UBI that would enable me to run a sf used book store.
posted by irisclara at 6:30 PM on January 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

if you're too cynical (or naive! ;) nothing changes... like robert reich says, cynicism is the enemy of progress; if you don't like the way things are going, what's the future you envision, how would you bring it about and convince others?

the government will guarantee and magically manage to maintain the ability to buy the goods and services necessary to live

the gov't already does 'magically manage' to print money maintain the ability to buy the goods and services necessary to live :P the question in my mind is: can it be done -- thru regulation, 'predistribution'* and a better understanding of how the money system works (or doesn't!) -- more equitably... and without leading to collapse!?
posted by kliuless at 7:49 AM on January 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Human Nature
Although not a book on political movements, the philosopher Jason W. Moore’s Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital seeks to analyze the root cause of this impasse for environmentalism: the widely-shared view that “the environment” is a separate and unique part of existence outside of capitalism that capitalism devalues. Instead of examining the degradation of nature as an aspect of accumulation, Moore proposes that nature is instead always in capital, and likewise, capitalism is always in historical natures. Nature conditions capitalist accumulation and is produced historically by capitalist relations. His argument allows us to see how dependent accumulation and the exploitation of labor are on the appropriation and reproduction of “cheap natures” (food, energy, raw materials, and labour-power — defined as “cheap” in the sense of “the periodic, and radical, reduction in the socially necessary labor-time of these Big Four inputs”). In Moore’s clearest formulation: “Capitalism is not an economic system; it is not a social system; it is a way of organizing nature.”
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:04 PM on January 27, 2016

Natural Capitalism!* :P
posted by kliuless at 9:11 AM on January 28, 2016

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